In his book, “Skeletal Marriage: My Anorexia”, Kohl (2009) narrates his fight with anorexia for nearly two years. Kohl was gripped by anorexia at the age of 34 years, after he nearly suffered a stroke when his blood pressure went out of control. Kohl takes us through the entire experience, starting with when the diagnosis for high blood pressure was made after he has been hospitalized as an emergency case, his beginning of weight loss, up to when he had attained a healthy weight and his blood pressure readings were in the normal range. Growing up, Kohl had always tried to avoid high calorie foods, and seeing his own father battling with weight problems. Therefore, his own weight problems, and the subsequent diagnosis with high blood pressure could be genetically connected. The near-death experience saw Kohl embrace a rigorous dieting and exercising regime. He became an avid exercising fanatic, going to the gym most days of the week. He started watching his weight, as well as his diet. He joined healthy eating classes as well.
Initially, Kohl went on an exercise and dieting regimen in a bid to lose weight, reduce his high blood pressure and hopefully, come off the high blood pressure medication that he did not wish to take for the rest of his life. However, this soon became an obsession. He started paying close attention to food labels in the supermarket and replaced the high-fat, high-calorie food at home with low-fat, low-calorie food. While eating out with family and friends, he would stick to a diet mainly rich in vegetables. In the beginning, his family and friends were happy with his discipline with losing weight, but soon enough, they could only tolerate him. Kohl’s wife (Kristin) also had weight issues but unlike him, she did not think that she had the discipline and dedication to lose weight through dieting and exercise. Her desire was to undergo gastric by-pass surgery. However, Kohl was against it, arguing that some people had died from a similar operation. However, the couple finally reached a compromise on Kristin undergoing the operation.
Kohl talks about anorexia at a very personal level, calling it endearingly as “my anorexia”. He talks of the effect of anorexia on him, his wife, children, friends, and colleagues at the workplace. His obsession with anorexia was so great that it was the only voice he would listen to. Eventually, his world came crumbling around him, beginning with the end of his marriage. He also nearly died of anorexia.
Nonetheless, the book has a happy ending in that Kohl managed to get over anorexia and is once more healthy. There are two kinds of anorexia: Bulimia nervosa, and Anorexia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa refers to an eating disorder whose key features include. “A cycle of binging and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting” (NEDA, 2015) following episodes of binge-eating. Accordingly, the victim feels guilty about their eating habits and hence resorts to such behavior in an attempt to compensate for or undo that effect. On the other hand, Anorexia nervosa is yet another type of eating disorder often characterized by extreme restriction of caloric intake owing to the victim’s perception of their body weight. Hence, the victim tends to have an abnormally low weight, engage in excessive exercising and vomiting to restrict food intake (Mayo Clinic, 2015). In the case of Kohl, he was suffering from Anorexia nervosa.
What I like most about the book is the fact that Kohl has succeeded in permitting the reader to walk in the shoes of a man fighting with an eating disorder (In this case, anorexia) using a very simple language. His writing style is very engaging, thereby making it easier for the reader to identify with his 2 years of experience with anorexia. I also like the fact that in spite of his being a man, Kohl is bold enough to let us into his private life. Most men are very skeptical about letting their guard down, especially on family issues and personal matters. This show of courage by Kohl is a source of inspiration to others suffering silently from anorexia. On the other hand, there are several issues that I dislike about the book. To start with, there is poor development of the plot summary. Not only do the characteristics in the book (save for the author himself) lack depth, but the plot summary hardly reaches a climax. Also, the end of the story is not solid enough.
Reading through the book, I cannot help but realize that eating disorders are not to be taken lightly. Their effects can linger on for decades if not attended to early enough. In the case of Kohl, he had to deal with it for nearly a decade. I also get the impression that therapy is a key component in finding a cure to this disorder. Eating disorders largely affects one’s behavior and as such, it is important to attend therapy and/or counseling in order to rectify these behavioral deficiencies. I feel that anybody reading this book would appreciate the importance of having a healthy eating habit to keep high blood pressure at bay. More importantly, I have realized that when we become healthy fanatics, this can have grave consequences.
The one aspect of the book that I find most interesting in the book is Kohl’s realization that his obsession with exercising and healthy eating was affecting his family, marriage, and his relationship with his workmates and friends. The fact that he did not act on it even after he had realized the problem goes to show the extent to which he had become engrossed in the anorexia issue.
Kohl, J. (2009). Skeletal Marriage: My Anorexia, Charlestown, SC: Create Space.
Mayo Clinic. (2015). Diseases and Conditions: Anorexia nervosa.
NEDA. (2015). Bulimia nervosa.